The origins of mariachi date back to the nineteenth century in western Mexico, specifically Cocula, Jalisco, where the regional music of son jalisciense was born. As a result of the Spanish Conquista, instruments like the guitar and violin were brought over to Mexico, which would later be incorporated into mariachi music. Around the turn of the century, groups that would perform son jalisciense began to adopt many of the principles associated with traditional mariachi.
Origins of Mariachi
Prominent cultural and political changes at the time also influenced mariachi tradition. With hopes of creating unity in the wake of the Mexican Revolution, Mexicanos (Mexicans) promoted the image of mariachi as an emblem of Mexican culture.
For years, mariachi music has been used for all kinds of special occasions revolving Mexican culture. Traditionally, it was sometimes used for courtship, which involved a mariachi playing serenatas (serenade) in situations where a male lover was seeking the affection of his female love but were not allowed to see each other (think R&J!). Mariachi is also heavily involved in religious ceremonies such as: Catholic Mass services, baptisms, weddings, quinceañeras, and funerals, as well as National Holidays.
How is music used in your culture?
The now recognizable charro suit, or mariachi suit, was once the attire of Mexico's rural upper class. Before Maricahis adopted the charro suits in the 1920's, early mariachi groups wore white shirts and pants with huarache sandals.
How did it get its name?
Today, the word mariachi has two main meanings: as a noun, where it can address either an entire mariachi group, or a single member, or as an adjective, where it refers to either the genre or culture surrounding mariachi music. The word mariachi contains a mixture of Spanish and Indigenous origins. The earliest known written examples of the word date from the early 1800s, where it is found as a place name.
Longest Running Acts
One of mariachi's longest running acts is Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, a Grammy winning Mexican mariachi group formed in Jalisco, Mexican mariachi group formed in Jalisco since 1897. Since its founding, six generations have carried on the Vargas name, and have made remarkable contributions to the sound and impact of mariachi.
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